May 7, 2013
Service dogs are great tools for those with disabilities who need a little help doing everyday tasks. Service Dogs of Virginia trains and provides dogs for people with disabilities, Type-1 Diabetes, and Autism.
Service Dogs of Virginia is based in Charlottesville but they serve the entire state. Dogs are fully trained by the time they reach two-years old but there is also a training process for the person with their dog.
Ricky Chang, a service dog trainee with Jack, has been on the waiting list for a service dog for two years.
Chang said, "I have no use of my fingers or my wrists. So, if I drop something I'm out of luck."
The training process between a person and the service dog last two weeks. Jack ,Chang's service dog, and Chang have been working together for nine days so far.
Chang said, "It's tiring but it's fun. It's going to be rewarding."
The first week of training is spend at the Service Dogs of Virginia training facility. The second week is out on the town visiting shops and restaurants. This process gets the dog and human trained together and ready to be out on their own.
Peggy Lee, Founder and Executive Direct of Service Dogs of Virginia, said, "It's kind of like a dance. The person has to learn not only how to dance but how to lead because the dog can't do it otherwise."
The dogs not only help with the trickier parts of everyday life but they are also trained to save lives.
Bruce Dellinger, a service dog trainee with Cole, said, "I'm an artist. I draw with my mouth. I drop things during the day and I don't always have some one around."
Dellinger had a service dog several years ago. He knows first hand how service dogs can save a life.
Dellinger explained, "I went to answer a telephone call and ended up pushing her bed against the electric heat and didn't realize it and almost caught the house on fire. I was able to get Shannon to pull her bedding out away."
Cole and Jack, the service dogs, are much more than just helping hands, they become life long friends.
Dellinger said, "For me, not only the companionship it provides but, it also makes me more independent to have a service dog because I don't have to ask for things."
Chang said, "A good buddy! We'll sit outside, hang out, go to the park kind of thing."
Service Dogs of Virginia only requires a small placement fee from their clients. Each of the service dogs is valued at about $40,000.
To find out how to volunteer or donate to Service Dogs of Virginia, click here.